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Understanding the 4 Types of Academic Writing

The 4 main types of academic writing are: Descriptive, Persuasive, Expository and Narrative.

When you’re asked to write a paper for high school or university, your professors usually expect you to maintain one of those main types of writing for academic content. You’ll be able to do that when you understand the characteristics of each type, and you learn how to make a difference between them.

That’s what we’re here for today! We’ll define the four main essay types, so you’ll know what expectations you’re dealing with.

1.   Descriptive Academic Writing: Definition and Characteristics

Descriptive writing is characterized with descriptions of objects, places, persons, emotions, experiences, situations, and so on. You’re asked to analyze something and paint a picture in words.

The important thing to remember is that you’re not writing for the sake of giving descriptions. You’re supposed to convey a deeper meaning through this type of academic writing.

You need examples? Here is a scene from War and Peace, where Tolstoy used descriptive writing style:

“Down below, the little town could be seen with its white, red-roofed houses, its cathedral, and its bridge, on both sides of which streamed jostling masses of Russian troops.”

You see how the author really paints a picture and makes you imagine the scene in front of your eyes? That’s the effect you want to achieve.

But what is academic writing? Can you get inspired by fiction writers? The good news is that this is one of the most flexible writing types, which gives you a lot of space for artistic freedom.

2.   Persuasive (Argumentative) Writing: Convince With Strong Arguments

The persuasive (also known as argumentative) essay is one of the most common genres of academic writing required for school. It’s the type of essay your professors assign when they want you to prove how great you are as an essay writer. It requires you to investigate a topic, form your own opinions, generate evidence in support of those opinions, and convince the reader that you’re making a valid point.

Among all different types of writing, this is the most demanding one, mainly because the requirements for an extensive research process. You have to build your case with strong persuasive essay topic, logic, facts, cases, examples, and expert opinions. Plus, you must present both sides of the argument, so you’ll convince the reader that your stand is the most logical option.

This is the structure for persuasive types of writing paper:

  • Introduction with a clearly defined thesis statement
  • Body paragraphs with evidential support
  • A body paragraph that discusses conflicting opinions
  • Conclusion

Read more: How to Structure an Essay

3.   Expository Academic Text: What Is It?

The expository writing style requires you to investigate an idea, collect and evaluate evidence that supports that idea, expound on it, and provide an argument that involves that idea.

This may be one of the most confusing styles of academic writing, since it’s similar to persuasive style. However, there’s less research involved in expository writing, and this type of essay is usually shorter in length when compared to a persuasive writing project.

This is the proper format to follow:

  • An introduction with a clear thesis statement
  • Body paragraphs that evaluate evidence
  • Conclusion that shows how the evidence proved your thesis statement

4.   Narrative Writing: Definition and Format

Narrative style, as one of the most common types of academic writing, requires you to tell a story about a personal experience, anecdote, or a real-life situation. Book reports, which are also considered as narrative projects, do not follow the storytelling pattern, but focus on providing an informative narrative.

When you’re writing a narrative assignment, you must draw the reader into the content. You can achieve such an effect by using vivid language and expressing a clear point of view.

There’s no particular format to follow for a narrative essay, but you still need an introduction, body, and conclusion of the essay.

As a student, you’ll deal with all these assignments sooner or later. Knowing the difference between the main types of academic writing helps you handle the challenge!